Random thoughts and bits of life of a coffee loving artist

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Coffee Review: Good & Delish – Vanilla Delight

During a recent trip to my local Walgreens, a US based drug store/convenience store chain, for a couple of items when I stumbled into the isle that had coffee and tea. On a whim, I took a look around and spotted one of the store's brands Good & Delish and noticed that a 12oz (340g) bag of Vanilla Delight coffee was reasonably priced within the $4-5 range. Curiosity got the better of me and decided to add it to what I was already picking up and brought it home.

One thing that made me happy with the packaging was that I seem to being up a lot in my previous coffee reviews is that it was easy to open and is able to be resealed so that the coffee doesn't loose its freshness. Breaking the seal on the bag, my senses were met with the sweet floral notes of vanilla married with the rich sultry tones of the Arabica coffee. Brewing up a pot of my new purchase, it wasn't long before the room was filled with the fragrant aroma. As stated on the bag as being a light roast, once the coffee was ready and poured into my favorite cup (a glass coffee mug from Thinkgeek.com called Caffeine Mug that has a caffeine molecule on it) I could see that it was a lovely shade of amber. Just on color alone, it was almost as if I had just brewed up a cup of Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea. Once cooled enough to drink, I held the still steaming in my hands and took a sip of the warm liquid, I found that the flavor was light and refreshing. For those who don't like a strong tasting coffee with very little aftertaste and no bitterness, this might be something you would like to check out. It would be best if you're in the United States to check out your local Walgreens to make sure that they have this particular coffee available since supplies may be different between locations. Unfortunately you are unable to order it online and prices are not listed on their website for this.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Art of Gaming - Segment Update

As of late, my readers have noticed a lack of 'Art of Gaming' installments to which I would like to apologize about. For those of you who are new to following or bookmarking my humble blog, 'Art of Gaming' is one of several segments that I do my best to keep updated with new spotlighted information. In this case, I focus on mostly Indie games and look at the art style(s) used instead of game play and mechanics. I then email the developers of said games to find out what their inspirations were. The feedback I have received from those who have responded has been absolutely positive but here is where I hit a roadblock. What do I mean by this? Perhaps it's due to the fact that I'm not a journalist or some other form of press or it's the workload of the developers I attempt to talk with which causes my inquiries to be overlooked, but the amount of emails I get back compared to the volume I send out is actually relatively small. I do thank every single developer who has responded and share with them the articles I write on their spotlighted games. It's always an honor to speak with these talented individuals and a delightful surprise when they let me know that they have taken time to read the various things I have posted. 

I often get asked by a mixture of my gamer audience and artists where I find the games I end up writing about. With all honesty, I can say that it's a mixture of looking at gaming sites such at Steampowered.com and gog.com along with suggestions from friends who are more savvy on the subject of gaming as well as watching Youtube personalities such as John “TotalBiscuit” Bain. Like any other installment I write, I make sure that I site where I found the information, discuss the art, share the developer's insight on what they were striving for and then share with my audience where they can possibly get the game to play it themselves. There has been several times that I have pondered if I should still do the articles I have planned and just include the developer's insights if I received any but until then have my thoughts on the matter. Perhaps my readers could help me decide if this is a good idea or not.

So I apologize if you have been waiting with held breath for the newest update of 'Art of Gaming' but I'm currently re-emailing several developers to see if I can get any responses along with keeping a look out for Indie games that might spark not only my interest but yours as well. Interested in checking out the games I've already spotlighted? Feel free to check out those I have been able to share thus far and their developers!

Deep Silver & Chromatrix GmbH, published by Daedalic Entertainment

Spooky Squid Games, Inc.

Cochroach, Inc.

Terry Cavanagh

Okugi Studios

Erik Svedäng

Colin and Sarah Northway, Thomas Shahan

Dreampainters Software

Stoic Studios

Ty Taylor & Mario Castañeda

Spaces to Play

Friday, April 19, 2013

Collaboration with Rebecca Tripp - part 13

Having been preoccupied with my own work and hectic schedule as of late, I was surprised when I saw that Rebecca has messaged me once again to let me know that she had a new video up. So soon after the last post? This woman has been rather busy. Her note was full of enthusiasm as always, with a joke between her and I on asking if I was able to do another painting to go with one of her upcoming videos: “Hi, Dawn. Here's the fuchsia art video! 60 videos are done, and only 4 to go! Then I can finally move on to the next project, which, knowing me, will probably be even bigger than this one. After this, there will be only two of more videos to send you: trumpet flowers and honeysuckle. (Unless you want to paint me a freesia) I hope you like this. It's sweet, perky at first, and then emotional and dramatic”. Sweet and perky to emotional and dramatic, hm? At this point I was stroking my invisible beard as I pondered what the piece would sound like. So off I went on my musical adventure.

Waltz of the Fuchsia is a rather delicate tune with the melody going from what could be described as spriteful to sultry. It is as if the music went from a child's tune and followed that person to becoming a young adult. Perhaps not quite along the lines of Antonio Vivaldi's (1678-1741) The Four Seasons since each season were their own piece. Rebecca's piece actually makes me think of some of the instrumentals from My Fair Lady (1964). This is perhaps due to the fact that when I was listening to the piece, I found myself imagining a young man courting a lovely lady while strolling through a flower garden somewhere in Paris. With that mind set, it was only logical for my mind to go to some classic movies. On a different note, while I was wandering through videos attempting to find the right comparison to Waltz of the Fuchsia, I stumbled across a piece by Swiss composer Adrian von Ziegler titled Evening Breeze which reminds me very much of Rebecca's pieces including the addition of the sound of bird calls in the background. Of course the birds that he uses are the caws of crows and ravens combined with the chirping of crickets but within the piece it makes sense.

"There was a Kingdom" by Dawn Star Wood
While looking through the beautiful pieces that she had compiled for the video, I was amused that Rebecca had used one of my much older pieces from 2008 titled There was a Kingdom. She did use the same piece for her piece Waltzing Under Wisteria, which I featured in Collaborationwith Rebecca Tripp – part 9. As I had mentioned in that installment, There was a Kingdom was part of an unfinished series I was working on at the time where I was trying to tell a small story through a group of different floral paintings and their titles. At the time I realized that what I wanted to do was not where my skill level in painting was so abandoned the project to perhaps redo sometime in the future.

If you would like to see more from Rebecca and give her a message, here's where you can find her work:

Interested in finding my work? Here's were you can find and follow me: 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Car Demo for Amador County Artists Society

"Sultan's Prize" by Dawn Star Wood 

Back in November I was sent a message by a woman named Leslie, a member of the Amador County Artist Association, letting me know that she and another member of the art group had seen my painting Sultan's Prize at last year's KVIE Art Auction Preview Gala. As she describes to me how fascinated they were of my work, I was surprised when she asks me if I wouldn't mind speaking and doing a demonstration of my work at one of their monthly meetings for 2013. Thinking things over, I really wasn't sure what I should do since I have never explained to a group of people how I paint and in all honesty public speaking has never been one of my strengths. After nearly an entire day of conflicted feelings and uncertainty, I emailed Leslie back and said that I would do it with the thought in the back of my mind that I really had nothing to loose.

After months of email correspondence between the two of us and my surprisingly increased work load for this year, we settled that I would be the guest artist for the month of April. With that hurdle jumped, I found myself having a new dilemma: What in the world was I going as a painting? Leslie had suggested doing another peacock but I really didn't want to do another piece of the flamboyant birds. After bouncing ideas around, I decided on showing how I do the reflective surfaces of vehicles. I think it was either in a moment of madness or perhaps brilliance, I went through my folder of classic vehicle photo references that I have on one of my hard drives and spent an hour scrolling through each picture I had saved to it to find the right picture. The winner? A photo titled Autobahnkurier by Dennis Matthies of Mechanicman.deviantart.com (Germany) who is a member of a club I'm in on dA that focuses on classic cars. According to Dennis, the photo was taken at the Classic Gala Schwetzingenn and states:
"Autobahnkurier" by Mechanicman

The Isdera Autobahnkurier 116i, at the Classic Gala Schwetzingen

The beginnings of the project date back to the year 1984 the Autobahnkurier was persented in 2006 and is powered by two Mercedes-Benz V8 engines - one for each axle - from the W126-500SE.

Only this one car were built which also uses some VW Beetle parts (doors and roof).

The reason why I chose it is because I had so many people the last couple of years ask me how I paint cars. I also wanted to work on a vehicle that wasn't blue, red, green, brown, or black to save on time. Another attraction to this particular car is that the curves and unique form that is has.

"Car Demo" by Dawn Star Wood 
At the meeting, after being introduced to the wonderfully cheerful members of the art group, I went about doing my demonstration after apologizing ahead of time in case I stuttered. Silently I did curse in the back of my mind when I started because the day before I had picked up a sheet of Hot Press paper since the art supply store near me was out of my usual Cold Press. So why was I having such negative things going through my mind while politely chatting and explaining what I do? For the simple fact that I discovered that 140lb Hot Press watercolor paper, though smooth, did not give me enough time to work with the paint before any and all moisture was sucked into the paper like a desert taking in a drop of rain. So here I was essentially experimenting with a product I've never used before while attempting to act as if everything was fine. The meeting itself went well and though I didn't finish the painting there, I had told those who were there that I would finish the painting at home and share it with them via email so that they could see the end result. It took 2 days at home to work on the painting to get it to a point that I'm satisfied with and can say that
it's finished. Still uncertain of how I had done at the meeting, I was pleasantly surprised and grateful when I checked my mail Monday afternoon and found that the group had sent me a card thanking me for taking the time to present to them and that they had enjoyed what they had learned. So I thank the wonderful members of the Amador County Artists Society for inviting me. 

Art + Science + Human Nature = Music

Wandering YouTube to find some more music to collect so that I can listen to the videos while I work, I stumbled across something very unexpected. It was a music video by Icelandic singer-songwriter Bjӧrk (1965- ) for her song Mutual Core. Having never seen or heard of it before, I decided to check it out and shocked is hardly the best way to describe what I saw and heard.
Screen shot from 'Mutual Core' video
Though in the beginning, I thought that the video was going to be simply her standing waste deep in sand, I found myself mesmerized by how she combined the sensuality of dual natures (masculine/feminine) and the violent nature of how the earth moves in such an artistic mix of images. As the video progressed, I found myself fascinated with how the rocks that represented tectonic plates began to change and morph before my eyes so that the layers of sediments became a face of many colors. It is honestly one of those videos that you share with your friends and say “You need to take a look at this” since words themselves just don't seem to do it justice. In a way, the video and its imagery reminded me of the plethora of messages used in Madonna's 1994 video Bedtime Stories.

The song itself also took me by surprise because it was describing, for the most part, how tectonic plates moved but was also seems to translate to the hidden strength and power we hold within ourselves. Of course the lyrics themselves might mean something different to other people so this is just my interpretation of it. Looking online to see if I could find anything else about this particular song, I discovered that it was for Björk's album Biophilia (2011) in collaboration with Matthew Herbers (1972- ) and English dubstep band 16bit. I couldn't help but feel proud of myself when I read that “The song's lyrics are a metaphor for human relationships, compared to the structure of the Earth and Plate tectonics”. Of course, after listening to the song a couple more times, I could see that the song was also describing how everything is a struggle but that's just the way of things. It is interesting, however and for some reason I do find some positive message within it. Needless to say, I am certainly going to be adding this interesting mix of artistic wonder, science and deeper sense of self into my collection of music to listen to while working.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Collaboration with Rebecca Tripp – part 12

The other day while checking messages, I perked up at seeing that my dear friend Rebecca had sent me a note letting me know that she had a new video up. In her usual cheerful manner that I have come to expect from her, she let me know that this time she had used 3 of my paintings for The Waltzing Dahlia. 3? I didn't even remember doing more then maybe 1 piece that had the flower type. Curiosity peeked, I clicked the link she provided and watched her newest creation.

The Waltzing Dahlia has an almost fanciful quality to it, similar to her piece Foxglove Waltz which I featured in Collaboration with RebeccaTripp – part 11. There is however a difference between the two. Waltzing Dahlia has a bit more of a sultry quality to it, starting off the melody with a harp and slowly blending it with a piano finish. There seems to be almost a bit of influence there from Suite No. 1 op.5 arr. For Harp and Piano. 1 Barcarole ( Yes & No) by Russian composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) but with a lighter, more spring like feel to it. Uplifting and peaceful, I find myself picturing a young lady in a lush English garden gathering flowers with a basket overflowing with blossoms. Of course images may differ between listeners.

"His Grandmother's Flower" by Dawn Star Wood
As I watched the video for the images, I was able to easily pick out which ones were mine and ended up giggling over Rebecca's choices. Why, you may ask yourselves, would I be laughing over what art she chose? It's due to the fact that 2 out of the 3 weren't dahlia's. Noticing this small mistake, I sent her a message to let her know and she apologized but we both knew that it would be impossible to fix the video. We also agreed that though they were the wrong flowers, the pieces themselves seemed to work well with the music so decided to leave things as they were. The first painting she used, which ironically was also the first piece in the video, was His Grandmother's Flower which I had done back in 2010 based off of a photo I took of my boyfriend's grandmother's flower garden when we went to South Dakota to visit. Though personally not a huge fan of working with the color pink, to this day I'm very proud of how the 11x14 inch painting went.

"Pray" by Dawn Star Wood

The second piece turned out to be Pray which I had done way back in 2007 when I was still getting used to watercolors. The tiny painting was based off of a piece captured by photography friend Shelly Alexander of UrbanRural-Photo.deviantart.com (Seattle, Washington) what was titled Just Ran Across My Mind. Now that I look at his photograph, I have to say that I may have been wrong and that it was a dahlia but with me doing so many water lilies as of late, I wasn't too sure if Pray was or wasn't.

Last on the list is certainly not a dahlia, but is actually a clover flower. Waiting, painted in 2012, was based off of a photo by Vividlight.deviantart.com (United States) titled Pretty Baby. Originally done to celebrate spring, I was also taking the opportunity to experiment with having the background textured with salt on a wet wash. I'm still
"Waiting" by Dawn Star Wood
relatively happy with the results of the experiment and surprised that though the entire color pallet is very much in the pastel range, I really don't mind it for this particular piece. 

If you would like to see more from Rebecca and give her a message, here's where you can find her work:

Interested in finding my work? Here's were you can find and follow me: 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Collaborations with Rebecca Tripp – part 11

"Irish Tranquility" by Dawn Star Wood 

My April seems to be having a good start, with some work coming in along with my dear friend Rebecca letting me know that she had a new art music video up. In her cheerful message, she ends up telling me “It features your wonderful artwork! It's a summery, faerie-like tune inspired by forests and fields and, of course, foxgloves! Enjoy!” Now who am I to stop a young woman's enthusiasm? Chuckling to myself, I went ahead and watched her video.

Foxglove Waltz is perhaps her most interesting piece she has done to date, not necessarily for the artwork that she used in the video but the composition of her music. Indeed it had a bit of a spring/summery feel to it but the fact that for some reason the first piece of music that came to mind was “Emperor” - Quartet in C Major by F. J. Haydn (1732-1809). The mix of melodies within the piece itself made me almost think that there was actually 2 tunes occurring at the same time. Even the fact that she described the music as 'faerie-like' seems appropriate since foxgloves are often associated with fairy-folk. 

Before (left) and After (right) 
Of my collection of art, Rebecca settled on using Irish Tranquility in her video. As I had told my audience on both deviantART and Facebook, I had done the painting back in 2011 as a piece for St. Patrick's Day and at the time I was wanting to do a piece that had some native flowers of Ireland in it. Alas at the time I could tell that there was something wrong with the end result but just didn't know what. Revisiting the piece, I discovered that I actually never had a dedicated light source direction. That was problem #1. Other mistakes that I discovered was that there was a serious lack of shading, lack of color various and detail, and bits of colors that were actually missing. It took a bit of time to figure out how to fix things and go about the work. Happily in the end, even the scan came out properly as well. Irish Tranquility is among some pieces that I have in an album for my Facebook page I've titled Before and After where I go and revisit older paintings of mine to see what the mistakes are and see if I can fix them.

If you would like to see more from Rebecca and give her a message, here's where you can find her work:

Interested in finding my work? Here's were you can find and follow me: